As the 2016 SEC football season is winding down, here are a list of underclassmen who may declare for the NFL draft. Thanks to excellent coverage of Mike Huguenin at Gridiron Now for penning this column.
Underclassmen have until January 16 to declare their intentions about the NFL draft, and as usual, there are numerous SEC players who will have to make decisions. (The NFL makes the list public on January 20.)
Here’s a look at SEC players who figure to be deciding, “Should I say or should I go?”
CB Marlon Humphrey: Humphrey is a third-year sophomore with good size (6 feet 1, 196 pounds), speed and ball skills. His dad, Bobby, was a first-round pick at running back by Denver in 1989, and Marlon is seen as a likely first-rounder, too.
OT Cam Robinson: Robinson has some issues – consistency is one – but he’s a big guy with athleticism and a good upside. He’s also a three-year starter at left tackle for the nation’s top program. He’s seen as a likely first-rounder, but there are some off-field issues.
WR ArDarius Stewart: It’s unlikely he turns pro, as he’s seen as a third-day guy by most. He does lead a deep group of Tide receivers in receiving yards and TD receptions this season, though, and he’s a fourth-year junior.
C Frank Ragnow: Ragnow announced last month he is staying in school for his senior season.
K Daniel Carlson: He’s one of the top two or three kickers in college football, and he’ll be back for his senior season.
DE Carl Lawson: He was injury-free for a change and had a solid season, and he surprised no one by turning pro. He has a high upside as a pass rusher, but is a bit of a ‘tweener (6-2, 253) and may move to outside linebacker. He seems like a late first-/early second-round prospect.
S Tray Matthews: He has good size (6-1, 207) and OK speed. He’s known as a big hitter and can play in the box; he says he’ll be back for his senior season.
G Braden Smith: He likely would be one of the top 10 guards available should he come out, and that might get him into the third round. Then again, he could return, get bigger and stronger and try to become a sure-fire second-day selection.
LB Alex Anzalone: The oft-injured Anzalone, a fourth-year junior, played this season as a grad student and went through “Senior Day” activities at Florida. He made it official January 4 that he was headed to the NFL. When he’s healthy, he’s a force against the run. He has a high football IQ and flows well to the ball. His injury history gives pause, though.
DT Caleb Brantley: He wasn’t quite as dominating as expected, but he showed flashes of his immense potential, especially against LSU, where he made two game-changing plays. Brantley has a quick first step, a good base and can be a disruptive force. He can become a more polished player, but he’s also a fourth-year junior who may figure his time is now. If he comes out, he seems likely to be a second-day selection.
OT David Sharpe: He’s a huge man (6-6, 357) with surprising athleticism; he was a star basketball player for a private-school power in Jacksonville before deciding to focus on football. He lacks consistency, but there is a definite upside. While Sharpe would’ve been best-served to remain for his senior season, he is going pro.
CB Jalen Tabor: It would be a stunner if he returns for his senior season. He is a legit cover corner with good ball skills and makeup speed. Tabor likely would be considered one of the top three or four corners available, and those guys go in the first round.
CB Quincy Wilson: Wilson decided to bypass his senior season. He has good size (6-1, 211) and, as with Tabor, the skill set to be a shutdown corner. He could go in the first round; he could last until early in the second.
OLB Davin Bellamy: No surprise that Bellamy has decided to remain for his senior season. While he has a pass-rush upside, though he hasn’t been all that productive in that facet with the Bulldogs (just seven career sacks). There would’ve been NFL teams willing to bet on his upside, though it seems likely they wouldn’t have been willing to bet until the third day.
OLB Lorenzo Carter: As with Bellamy, he’s staying for his senior season. And as with Bellamy, the upside is there even if the production hasn’t been (8.5 career sacks). And as with Bellamy, there would’ve been NFL teams willing to bet on his upside, though it seems likely they wouldn’t have been willing to bet until the third day.
RB Nick Chubb: In a mild surprise, he is staying for his senior season. Running backs have only so much tread on their tires. Maybe he can answer some questions about his receiving ability as a senior; he was productive in that facet as a true freshman but basically has been non-existent in that role the past two seasons.
WR Isaiah McKenzie: Surprisingly, McKenzie is entering the draft; he announced his intention right after the Bulldogs beat TCU in the Liberty Bowl. He has value as a return man, but he was not all that productive as a receiver until this season and he is listed at just 5 feet 8.
RB Sony Michel: It seemed unlikely he would leave, and as with his teammates, he is staying for his senior season.
RB Stanley “Boom” Williams: Most running backs have only so many carries in their bodies, and Williams evidently thinks it’s time to start getting paid for his carries. He announced last week that he was turning pro.
S Jamal Adams: A big-hitting safety who can play in the box, has solid coverage skills and can run? That’s a nice combination. His dad, George, was a first-round pick at running back out of Kentucky by the New York Giants in 1985. Jamal seems likely to be a first-rounder as well; he is expected to announce his decision by January 6.
WR Malachi Dupre: His potential has outweighed his production, but given LSU’s quarterback situation, that’s not his fault. He has impressive size (6-4, 195) with good speed, but isn’t a lock to go on the second day. Does he come back to try to lock down an earlier round? He seemed to indicate on Twitter that he is coming back.
RB Leonard Fournette: He has announced that he would turn pro. Fournette will be a first-rounder; will he be the first running back selected or the second, behind Dalvin Cook? And how early will the backs go? There have been running backs taken in the top 10 in each of the past two drafts (Todd Gurley in 2015, Ezekiel Elliott this year).
DL Davon Godchaux: While he seemingly fits best as a tackle in a 4-3 scheme, he has played end in LSU’s 3-4 and done an admirable job. He is turning pro, and his versatility will be a selling point.
DE Charles Harris: He already has announced that he was turning pro, and he is one of a number of SEC edge rushers who should go in the first round. Harris is an athletic guy who still is learning the nuances of football because he was a better basketball player in high school than he was a football player. His pass-rush upside is huge.
DE Marquis Haynes: Haynes is staying for his senior season and looks to be a lock to become the school’s career sacks leaders. He is just two sacks behind career leader Greg Hardy. (For Haynes’ sake, let’s hope that’s his only comparison to Hardy.)
WR Damore’ea Stringfellow: He is turning pro, which shouldn’t have surprised anyone. He had a solid season, though he didn’t have the breakout year that many expected. He has good size (6-2, 219), but lacks consistency; in addition, off-field issues led to a transfer to Ole Miss from Washington. He seems to be a third-day pick.
TE Hayden Hurst: He is a 23-year-old sophomore who played two seasons of minor league baseball in the Pittsburgh Pirates’ organization. Hurst has good size (6-5, 250) and nice hands, and is a legit receiving threat. He has a long way to go as a blocker, though.
DE Derek Barnett: Barnett has been one of the most productive defensive linemen in UT history, and became the school’s career sacks leader in the Music City Bowl win over Nebraska. He has a high motor, can get to the passer and is solid against the run. The question is how soon he comes off the board, as he is headed to the NFL.
RB Alvin Kamara: Kamara is quick, has the ability to run between the tackles, is a solid receiver out of the backfield and also can be an effective return man. He seems a likely third-day pick, but a strong Combine and a good 40 time could elevate him on some draft boards. He tweeted shortly after the Vols’ bowl win that he was turning pro.
WR Josh Malone:Malone has good size (6-3, 200) and speed, and was one of the best deep threats in the SEC this season. He averaged 18.9 yards per catch and had 10 TD receptions, and decided to head to the NFL. But he lacks elite top-end speed, and it’s a big question as to whether he is selected before the third day.
DE Myles Garrett: Fournette, who was the No. 2 prospect in the 2014 signing class, announced he was going pro in early December; Garrett, the No. 1 prospect in 2014, did so on the last day of December. He was bothered by injuries this season, but he is a legitimate difference-maker when healthy. He will be in the mix to be the top overall pick.
WR Speedy Noil: Noil has the needed skill set, but he never quite put it all together; that didn’t stop him from declaring for the draft. He easily could go undrafted.
WR Ricky Seals-Jones: Seals-Jones announced he was turning pro last week. He was listed as a wide receiver by Texas A&M, but his size (6-5, 240) means he could be a stretch tight end in today’s NFL. His production dropped noticeably this season. He figured to play a bigger role for A&M next season, but he was a fourth-year junior who evidently decided it’s time. A third-day selection likely beckons.
S Armani Watts: Watts is staying in school for his senior season, which means the Aggies should be extremely deep in the secondary next season.
LB Zach Cunningham: He has good size (6-4, 230, with the ability to add 15 or so pounds), incredible production, possesses a high football IQ, runs well, has some coverage skills and can flow laterally. In short, it’s hard to see him returning to school and it’s easy to see him being picked in the first round.
RB Ralph Webb: He already is the leading rusher in school history and has had a lot of use. But while he is a tough inside runner, Webb (5-10, 202) lacks top-end speed and that hurts his draft stock. He is returning for his senior season.